Image Contributor Freshman forward Jerrelle Benimon grabbed five second half rebounds.
Image Contributor
Freshman forward Jerrelle Benimon grabbed five second half rebounds.

PHILADELPHIA – Two years ago, the Hoyas were the Cardiac Kids, winning games in the closing seconds on their way to a conference title. This year, they might just be the Comeback Kids.

A week after surmounting a 15-point halftime deficit in a win over Connecticut, No. 11 Georgetown (13-3, 4-2 Big East) overcame a 15-point hole in the second half, though [it could not pull out the win at No. 4 Villanova (16-1, 5-0), losing 82-77](

Led by sophomore forward Greg Monroe and junior guard Austin Freeman, the Hoyas made quick work of the Wildcats’ 46-31 halftime cushion. It was down to single digits less than three minutes into the half and was just three points at the 14:46 mark.

onroe had a double-double in the second half alone, scoring 16 of his career-high 29 points to go with 10 rebounds. Freeman, following his 28 second-half points against UConn, scored 17 of his 22 points in the second frame.

Yet as good as the Hoyas’ stars were, it was ultimately the team’s short bench that cost them the game. Although Georgetown got solid performances from freshmen Jerrelle Benimon and Hollis Thompson with several starters in foul trouble, the newcomers lacked the necessary veteran intangibles in crunch time. Benimon and Thompson were called upon throughout the game with starters Julian Vaughn and Chris Wright in foul trouble.

Benimon’s rookie error came with 2:37 left in the game. Vaughn had fouled out three minutes prior and Villanova had just extended its lead to 72-69. With 19 seconds left on the shot clock, Benimon hoisted up a three-pointer that missed everything.

It would have been a decent shot in the first half, but Benimon entered the game 0-of-1 from behind the arc and had just hit his first career trey earlier in the game. With plenty of time left on the shot clock and veterans Monroe and Freeman with the hot hands, the Hoyas would have been better off if Benimon passed up the shot.

Thompson’s freshman mistake came with 49 seconds left in the game. The Hoyas, still down by three, badly needed a score. Thompson had just subbed in for Jason Clark, who had four fouls, and grabbed a tough offensive rebound off of a missed three from Wright.

Double-teamed on the wing after securing the ball, Thompson tried to make a cross-court pass back to Wright that was intercepted by guard Corey Stokes. Villanova guard Scottie Reynolds hit two free throws on the next possession to extend the lead to 76-71, and Georgetown never had the ball with a chance to tie the game again.

Villanova Head Coach Jay Wright, who got 11 points from his freshman guard Maalik Wayns – including four straight free throws with less than 15 seconds to play – talked about the energy his freshmen provided, rather than the clutch play.

“That’s the key to being a freshman that contributes to your team. It’s not playing without making mistakes. It’s playing with confidence and aggressiveness,” Wright said.

Wright, who also praised Benimon and Thompson, called Benimon a “beast” after the 6-foot-7, 242-pound forward grabbed five rebounds in the second half. He also hit a three-pointer as time was winding down on the shot clock and added a free throw to finish with four points – a solid line for a freshman who was injured at the beginning of the season.

“[Benimon] is getting better and better,” Monroe said of his frontcourt mate. “He’s closer to 100 percent if not 100 percent. The more he plays in these games, the more you’ll see from him.”

Despite shooting 0-of-7 from the field, Thompson also provided the Hoyas with solid contributions off the bench. He drove to the basket and found open shots from the perimeter, even though they were not falling, and he was active on defense.

“[Foul trouble] is an issue if the people coming in aren’t producing,” Head Coach John Thompson III said after the game. “The guys that came in gave us terrific minutes.”

Thompson is correct that his reserves were producing. Benimon and Thompson performed well for freshmen in the sixth Big East game of their young careers, playing with energy and hustle.

Yet there was a drop off from the more experienced starters. Neither scores as consistently as the starters they replace.

ost importantly, the two freshmen made critical mistakes in the final minutes of the game. Benimon and Thompson contribute plenty as freshmen, and they show a good deal of promise for the future. But right now, the Hoyas need their veterans on the floor in crunch time.

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